Retailers are encouraging Christmas shoppers back in store with excitement and theatre

- by Fran Minogue, Managing Partner in Articles

Retailers are encouraging Christmas shoppers back in store with excitement and theatre

What are retailers doing to attract shoppers back into stores?

Whilst workers are returning to cities and their desks, the numbers are still well down on 2019. London is particularly badly hit - exacerbated by a lack of tourists – and festive spending in the capital is forecast to be less than half of pre pandemic levels. In order to boost the economy, both employers and the Mayor are taking initiatives to woo people back. Offices are now hubs of communication and learning and many companies are even offering free food and social events. At a more macro level, Sadiq Khan has launched his ‘Let’s do London’ and ‘Let’s do London Lates’ campaign in conjunction with museums and galleries to give commuters more reasons to return to the city and spend on culture and hospitality.

So what are shopping centres and retailers doing to attract shoppers, who have gotten used to ordering from the comfort of their sofa, back into stores?

Malls are being re-envisioned as the ‘town square’ with a tenant mix which includes more health, sport and leisure operators. Research by Westfield indicated that customers want 50% of space given over to experiences and, in response, they have added activities such as healthy cooking classes for kids and mini golf courses.

Many retailers have spent the last 12 months refining their omnichannel model to offer the fastest, easiest and most convenient shopping experience and stores are central to this. Alex Baldock of Currys and Thierry Garnier at Kingfisher are both well-known advocates of stores and see them as a strategic asset.

The vast majority of Currys’ sales are big ticket items and a considered purchase. As Alex says: “Consumer tech can be confusing, expensive and really benefits from face to face interaction with colleagues, who are front and centre in bringing technology to life and demonstrating products as diverse as a Dyson hairdryer or an e mobility scooter”. Several recent initiatives have made the store an even more exciting and rewarding place to visit. Wow zones to experience the latest TVs with full surround sound, gaming ‘bunkers’ where enthusiasts can play against anyone in the world and sponsorship of the esports tournament are just some of the compelling reasons to make the trip.

At both Kingfisher and Currys stores are not only central in the provision of advice and service, but increasingly a powerful tool in providing instant gratification. Currys offers order online and collect from store in just 30 minutes, or ‘store to door’ delivery via Uber in just 15. B&Q now offers 1 hour C&C from all stores and literally 1 minute at Screwfix, or alternatively a 60 minute service to site via Screwfix Sprint.

At B&Q kitchen design and paint mixing have always encouraged a physical store visit, but now more space and manpower are being dedicated to product demonstrations and customer education. Thierry commented, “Better use of technology has freed up colleagues to spend more time engaging with consumers and ‘scan and go’ will in the future drive up ATV by delivering targeted promotions direct to the customer’s phone instore.”

Fashion and luxury retailers are encouraging shoppers back with even greater excitement and theatre in the run up to Christmas this year.

Fortnum’s has always been a favourite destination and CEO Tom Athron is pulling out all the stops to make a visit to the iconic Piccadilly store an experience for the whole family. ”We’re using online comms and social media to drive traffic and emphasise the hospitality offer – especially afternoon tea and the ice cream parlour.” A collaboration with Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, including the appropriately named character Knickerbocker Glory, is themed throughout the store, in the famous windows and brought to life on Instagram, resulting in more views in 2 days than for the entirety of any other campaign.

Primark was obviously one of the worst hit retailers when the pandemic closed stores last year, but queues around the block testified to the strength of the brand when shops reopened. To ensure a sustained recovery CEO Paul Marchant and the team have doubled down on innovation and newness to create the excitement that can only happen instore. A key area of focus has been the ‘Primark cares’ initiative and licenses and collaborations have been stepped up, including one with the NBA and a second collection for kids with Stacey Solomon.

Increasingly Primark stores are a destination in their own right; extended ranges such as The Edit premium womenswear, a new homewares collection for ‘hosting and toasting’, beauty, cafes and an exclusive tie up with Smokey Barbers all add up to a complete day out. And whilst Primark may not sell online, it is one of the most skilled users of social media to highlight new offers and now boasts 24m followers.

With the right strategy, high colleague engagement and flawless execution, the store will continue to be central to an excellent retail experience.


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Clarity is an International Board Advisory and Executive Search firm specialising in the Retail, Consumer, Hospitality and Leisure sectors.
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